|Date of game: 3/27/2015
Minnesota Timberwolves (16-55) at Houston Rockets (48-23), 8 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets are back home for a brief moment and will host the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets won back-to-back road games against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans, and are coming off Wednesday's 95-93 triumph in the Big Easy. Dwight Howard returned to action at center for Houston and posted four points with seven rebounds in just under 17 minutes.
Howard's minutes will be monitored until he feels completely comfortable on his balky knee. He played for the first time since Jan. 23 and the Rockets were 17-9 in his absence.
"I felt pretty good," Howard said afterward. "It was kind of an adjustment period for me, but I'm happy to be back out there."
Houston didn't miss much of a beat without Howard because of MVP candidate James Harden. Harden scored 25 points, handed out 10 assists and picked up six rebounds, and is averaging 28.5 ppg in his last 10 games.
Trevor Ariza had 22 points with nine rebounds and five assists in the recent win, while Donatas Motiejunas added 21 points and eight rebounds for Houston, which was down by a 34-19 score after 12 minutes and recorded a 59-36 advantage the next two quarters.
The Rockets are 12-5 in the last 17 games and 1 1/2 games behind Memphis for both the Southwest lead and the No. 2 spot in the West. The team learned that guard Patrick Beverley may be out for a substantial amount of time. Head coach Kevin McHale told reporters on Wednesday that Beverley's recent wrist injury will keep him out between 7-to-10 days before he is re-evaluated.
According to reports, Beverley may have tore a ligament in his left wrist that could require season-ending surgery. He is averaging 10.1 ppg this season.
Forwards Corey Brewer (oblique) and Josh Smith (ankle) are questionable Friday and forward Motiejunas (back) is probable.
Houston, which is eighth in the NBA with 103.2 ppg, has a 26-10 mark at the Toyota Center and will visit the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors in the next few days.
The Rockets can clinch a playoff spot with a win or losses by both New Orleans and Phoenix.
The Timberwolves have alternated results in the last five games and dropped a 101-99 overtime decision to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Andrew Wiggins recorded 27 points, Chase Budinger added 22 off the bench and Zach LaVine ended with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists for Minnesota, which made 42.3 percent from the floor and scored 25 points off 16 LA turnovers.
It still wasn't enough to top the Lakers in the matchup of futility.
The key moment was when LaVine pushed Jordan Clarkson from behind, and the Lakers guard drained both foul shots with only 0.3 seconds to go in OT.
"This might have been a little bit of a learning experience for Zach in that situation," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.
The Timberwolves, losers in 12 of the last 15 games, were without starters Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic due to injuries. Martin, Rubio and Gary Neal are questionable Friday.
The Wolves visit New Orleans on Sunday and are 7-28 on the road.
Minnesota, which has a 7-36 mark against the West (3-17 road), is 0-3 against Houston this season and has lost eight of the previous 10 meetings between the teams. The Rockets are unbeaten in four straight at home in this series.